2015 June 22 – The stalwart slog north


The R2AK has seen its share of the impressive. From the rocket ship feats of the first few teams to finish to the indescribable Roger Mann-kind of incredible that has Chuck Norris-based superlatives filing for unemployment, all have been impressive, and the five teams currently making the long slog no less so.

What does it take to keep going? The prizes are all won, the race followers move on with each team that crosses the line. The roars of the online crowd fade and people revert to their routine of watching cats play the piano. From the perspective that one can gain from the cockpit of a small boat or a kayak, the coastline that emerges on the bow looks roughly the same as what is disappearing off the stern. These five teams keep plugging away, making miles into that ongoing sameness and increasing anonymity with no chance of reward. Given the same set of parameters, others have heeded the siren song of work and the real world to a second helping of hypothermia and blisters and packed it in. What’s keeping these five teams going towards Ketchikan?

Our Hive Mind app is still in beta, and the NSA stopped taking our calls, so while we don’t yet have direct contact with the chip in their brains, we do have some theories based on the few nuggets of intel the R2AK rear guard has offered us.  The answers to “Why?” remain largely question marks for us, with a single ray of the obvious, and what amounts  to, “That is a very limiting question, stop pigeon-holing me to such narrow parameters.” Here’s what we got:

After two weeks, Team Excellent Adventure continue to be have an eponymous time. We have yet to see a photo of them where they are anything less than beaming two smiles that span generations. Like the rest, they have seen storms, calms, fatigue and damage. But this unlikely duo seem to weather it all with a cheerful countenance rarely seen north of San Dimas. They’ve never been in it to win it, and unencumbered by competition, their Montgomery 17s steady progress north has been defined by good choices, solid interactions with the locals, and what looks like a great time. At time of writing they appear to be cleared for a final approach to Ketchikan, and our plan is to get all up in their biz when they roll into Ketchikan town. We’ll pass on a full report then.

Team Mike’s Kayak.  Many have clamored for more info on this pointy yellow tube with a single soul onboard, endlessly shoveling water towards the north. We’ve clamored too, but we’ve got little to nothing to deal with since the word go. His only offering: “Working hard. Still plan to beat the sweep boat.” Yup, pretty much sums it up. We’ll more than make up for this man of few words in some forthcoming fabrications, but other than the slug line of the tracker that indicates a certain flair for the resolute, we’ve got nothing. Even our spies in the world of Facebook seem to be coming up short.

And then there are the Boatyard Boys, and Barefoot Wooden Boat… even less info from them from the past week. We’ll splurge for some new tinfoil for the rabbit ears in the hopes we get a better signal, but as of now we’ve got nothing. Nada. Bupkis.

Team John has been a bit of an unsung hero of the race. Not a flash guy, he’s no Olympian; his goal from the jump off was to just participate. Other than Team Mike’s Kayak, no other team has been so shrouded in mystery (read: has updated us less frequently) than Team John. Like that weird kid who saved all his Easter candy all year just to eat it all day before the next Easter, here’s what we got from Team John after almost two weeks of nothing. Stale chocolate bunnies never tasted so good.

“Hi Guys!

In Port McNeil after overnighting at a motel where I happily found hot running water, dryness, and a soft bed. I awoke screaming in the night though, dreaming that the tide was engulfing my sleeping space and carrying my boat away.  Laundry done, so nice to have clean dry clothes. Just packed down grub in a cafe.  Got another roll of duct tape and more 5 minute epoxy. Stocking up on groceries. Lost my Lee board in 20 kt wind and rough water near Texada Island. Improvised a replacement from a piece of 2×6 and wire found onshore but it was clunky so I pitched it. My seat broke. I nearly capsized when my outrigger filled with water and swamped. The outrigger was 2 ft underwater and the boat leaning severely to that side. I made shore then discovered that I had forgotten to replace a hatch cover when I had removed it to bail water from a leak! Short bus rider. I temporarily patched the hole with a piece of dry bag and duct tape. I have since patched the leak with 5 minute epoxy and crafted a slick hatch cover from a piece of that flotation foam used in floating docks! The day of the outrigger fiasco was the day I passed Seymour Narrows. It was the best and worst of days. Pisser too was that when the outrigger swamped I lost a thermos bottle that held ice for my coke that I’d saved to celebrate the crossing. But no catastrophic failures. Logistics are a problem. Finding places to camp to escape the tide, unloading the boat, hauling it above the tide, setting up camp, repeat it all next morning. People have been wonderful. Helping me haul stuff, giving me places to sleep, giving me salmon, giving me directions and advice. One lady appeared out of nowhere 300 yards out on a beach as I was about to launch and handed me 2 Starbucks breakfast sandwiches, a Grande latte, a bottle of OJ, and a bottle of Perrier water!  Tracked me online! I was down to my last 2 swallows of water! Think I’ve lost ten lbs and have a rich George Hamilton suntan! Or maybe it’s windburn. My skin is always wet and I have little sores here and there from being in a wetsuit 14 hrs a day. A pack of porpoises swam alongside and beneath my boat offshore Robson Bight. I’m sore all the time from endless paddle strokes and sitting in a broken kayak seat all day. But hanging in there!

Wildlife – otters, mink, raccoons, humpback, dolphins, seals, eagles everywhere.  One morning I was in a foul mood and I saw a killdeer on the beach.  I said “hello killdeer.  Or maybe it’s killmoose since we’re in Canada!”  Laughed my ass off. Mood improved.

I’m pressing on to Port Hardy then Bella Bella.  My plan is to call it quits there.  Time constraints and such. ”

Everything is a success if you can correctly define the finish line, and “Ready, Shoot, Aim” is cool with us. Team John has met his goal, to get out there and push himself to the limit. Dropping ten pounds and gaining a Hamilton tan vs attempting the back-nine of a bridge too far? We like the exchange rate on that trade and appreciate someone who knows when to call it a win. Team John will finish on time, no sweep boat for him, and resounding success all around.